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Oklahoma Drug Rehab Bill Passes Senate: Scientology’s Narconon Days Numbered?

Sen. Tom Ivester

Sen. Tom Ivester

Yesterday, Oklahoma’s Senate voted 46-0 to approve a bill authored by Sen. Tom Ivester which will require drug rehab facilities to be licensed by the state mental health board.

Senate Bill 295 now goes to the House, and if it’s approved there, will go to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin for signing.

If the bill becomes law, it will take affect on November 1. And if that’s the case, Scientology’s flagship drug rehab facility, Narconon Arrowhead, could be in big trouble.

Earlier today, we talked to Senator Ivester about his bill and its chances of becoming law.

Last August, we interviewed Ivester when he first expressed outrage over three deaths at Narconon Arrowhead, and vowed to look into the laws governing it.


At the time, Ivester had been hearing for months about the facility, and had read our story about the history of Scientology’s program in Oklahoma. That history showed that the state had resisted Scientology’s plan to open the large rehab center in the late 1980s, and refused to grant it a license. But Scientology found a loophole in the law that allowed them to open based on a certification by a national nonprofit organization, bypassing state regulators.

In his bill, Ivester is trying to close that loophole.

“We got it out of the Senate. The House will take a look at Senate bills the first week in March,” he says.

We asked him how likely the bill, with its unanimous vote in the Senate, could get through the House to the governor’s desk.

“Whether you start in the House or Senate, the first house is the easiest one to get it through,” he says. “But there’s a pretty good chance it will get through. It has good support in the House. The bill is real simple. You have to get certification from the Board of Mental Health.”

Has Scientology sent its attorneys to try and lobby against the bill?

“Yeah, they have. I’ve talked to their attorneys multiple times. They say, ‘Look at what we’ve done and how good we are.’ I don’t really know their tactics. I’ve just been plowing ahead,” he says.

“They’ve been sending out promotional material, at least in certain districts, touting the benefits of Narconon. I’ve received quite a bit of it. But they’re pretty cagey — their attorneys are, as they should be.”

On the House side, the bill is sponsored by Representative Jason Murphey, a conservative Republican who champions government reform, and has vowed not to take gifts from lobbyists, even refusing to accept meals from them. (Ivester is a Democrat.)

We’ve put in a message to Rep. Murphey, and we’ll add to this post if we hear from him.



Although nothing really all that new seems to have come to light, Alanna Nash put together an interesting new piece about Lisa Marie Presley yesterday. She generously links to our stories about Lisa Marie leaving Scientology which we wrote for the Village Voice, and she then reveals what she says are statements that Lisa Marie made which have never been published.

However, the lengthy quote Nash then reveals reads a lot like what Lisa Marie was telling other reporters last year when she was doing publicity for her album, Storm and Grace. In those interviews, reporters were told they couldn’t ask about Lisa Marie’s involvement with Scientology, but numerous times she talked about having to drop a lot of meddling people who were holding her back. Here’s a typical example, from Rock Cellar Magazine in December:

when I was writing that song, I had just found out what people — who I thought were my friends and well intended — actually thought about me and were saying behind my back. It’s surprising, and it can really shake you when you wake up and realize the relationships you’ve built up over the years. And that the people you’ve come to trust are backstabbers and not at all who you thought…The people you surround yourself with can make or break you. I have seen it so many times and been around it. That’s kind of what I was going through when I was writing the whole record. So I completely got rid of everything, left the country, started from ground zero and then wrote this record throughout that process.

We saw her say something like this numerous times last year, and each time we couldn’t help assuming that she was referring to her Scientology handlers.

The new quote that Nash revealed this week sounds like another version of the same thing.

As we pointed out last year, this is probably as close as we’re going to see Lisa Marie talk about throwing off the shackles of the church. With her mother still in, it would be very difficult for her to say anything more specific.


Posted by Tony Ortega on February 20, 2013 at 15:45


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